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Classical Composers A-Z: Jean-Baptiste Lully

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to Jean-Baptiste Lully, court composer to Louis XIV of France.

Born
28th November, 1632, in Florence.

Childhood
Went to Paris and worked as a kitchen boy in a nobleman’s house. When his musical abilities were discovered, he entered the household of Louis XIV as a violinist.

Adolescence
He became the Court Composer and was put in charge of the King’s 24 violins.

Adult Life
By looking after his own interests, he rose to be Composer of the King’s Chamber Music. From 1664 he began to collaborate with Moliere in a comedy ballet, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

In 1662 he married Madelaine, daughter of the composer Michel Lambert.

From 1673 he turned to opera, with Philip Quinalt as librettist, producing and conducting his own operas. He altered the recitatives to fit the rhythms of French speech.

One notable opera was Les Fetes de L’Amour et de Bacchus (1672). He developed French ballet and introduced female dancers. He also wrote a few choral pieces, e.g. Te Deum (1672), De Profundis (1683) and Miserere (1664).

He died 22nd March, 1687, in Paris, aged 54 from gangrene of the foot following an injury from a conducting staff.

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